Editorial: LMH expansion is a good sign

Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s plans to build a new facility near Rock Chalk Park is a win for the community.

The hospital’s board of directors voted to move forward with the purchase of a 20-acre site just northeast of the intersection of Sixth Street and Kansas Highway 10 west of Lawrence, where LMH plans to build a multimillion-dollar, 100,000- to 120,000-square-foot medical facility. The facility is the type of major development that could serve as a catalyst for the kind of commercial development city officials have long hoped would evolve in west Lawrence in general and around Rock Chalk Park specifically.

The new medical center will not replace the hospital. It won’t even have inpatient beds. But the new facility will offer a wide array of medical services.

LMH has reached a deal to partner with Lawrence-based OrthoKansas on a state-of-the art orthopedic facility for knee, hip, shoulder and other joint replacements at the new site. And the new facility will include space for primary care doctors, specialty physicians, image services such a X-rays, CAT scans and MRIs, and therapy services. Plans are for the LMH Breast Center to move to the location.

Russ Johnson, president and CEO of LMH, said LMH wants to ensure its outpatient services are as convenient as possible as the Lawrence health care market becomes more competitive.

“Thinking about Lawrence as it grows over the next 20 years, we feel like the hospital is really good for the central and east parts of town, and this will be a really good location for the west,” Johnson said. “And we really wanted visibility from the SLT.”

The city of Lawrence spent $25 million on the Rock Chalk Park sports complex, including infrastructure to serve the area. The hope always has been that the athletic complex — which includes the city’s recreation center as well as track, tennis, softball and soccer venues used by the University of Kansas — would spur retail development around the site. So far, such development has been minimal.

The hospital facility could change that as LMH’s facility will bring streets, sewer, water and other city services to the area, tearing down a major obstacle to small businesses locating on the remaining 70 acres available there.

LMH’s new facility will expand the availability of health care options in the growing West Lawrence area. It will add to the amenities and services at Rock Chalk Park and spur the kind of development that always has been envisioned there. Ultimately, it should be a significant benefit to Lawrence and Douglas County.